My summertime exploration of BC’s southern archipelago was well underway. I’d explored a half dozen islands and already read a dozen books. There was sunshine and swimming, hiking, barbeques, and a whole lot of ice cream. In other words, good use of good weather.
When it was time to replenish my reading supply, I ambled into Qualicum’s Mulberry Bush Bookstore, one of the great indie booksellers on Vancouver Island. I tend to be a nonfiction guy, but Tom, the store’s owner, had other plans for me, and placed Valérie Perrin’s tome of a paperback, Fresh Water for Flowers in my hands with a touch of reverence.
“I have a customer who comes in regularly,” Tom said. “Very well read. And he relies on me for new recommendations. It’s flattering but I find it a bit stressful to consistently deliver. And he said with this one, I hit it out of the park. So I suggest it for you as well,” he said, with a warm and confident smile.
“Well, all right then,” was all I could say, taking care to lift with my legs as I lugged my new book to the till. And once again, Tom hit it out of the park.
This was the second translated book I’d read in as many weeks, and yet again, as I found myself enthralled by the text I not only applauded the author but the translator as well. Valérie Perrin’s Fresh Water for Flowers is a rejuvenating read, the prose rich, dreamy, sensuous and evocative. Through it all a sense of increasing strength, individuality and personal growth. It’s an empowering read, conducive to healing, communicated through relationships with those living and dead, revolving around the novel’s protagonist, Violette Toussaint.
“Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Her life is lived to the predictable rhythms of the often funny, always moving confidences that casual mourners, regular visitors, and sundry colleagues share with her. Violette’s routine is disrupted one day by the arrival of Julien Sole—local police chief—who has come to scatter the ashes of his recently deceased mother on the gravesite of a complete stranger. It soon becomes clear that Julien’s inexplicable gesture is intertwined with Violette’s own complicated past.”
As I read I found myself thinking of people from my own past, alive and deceased, and felt as though we were presently in a shared space. A positive common domain. Perhaps the result of the prose, or poetic passages introducing vignettes, or merely the scope of the story, tickling corners of the subconscious, the deep dusty parts that only surface during periods of introspection, mourning, or revelation.
I could see this book being prescribed for those of us who’ve suffered or are suffering, or for those who know what they want, yet may not know how best to get there. This was one of those books I’d set down on my chest mid passage, simply savouring the art on the page. All I can do is echo my friend Tom’s words, and “suggest it for you as well.”
About the Author: Valérie Perrin was born in Remiremont, in the Vosges Mountains, France. She grew up in Burgundy and settled in Paris in 1986. Her novel The Forgotten Sunday (2015) won the Booksellers Choice Award and the paperback edition has been a bestseller since publication. Her English-language debut, Fresh Water for Flowers (Europa, 2020) won the Maison de la Presse Prize, the Paperback Readers Prize, and was named a 2020 ABA Indies Introduce and Indie Next List title. It has been translated into over thirty languages. Figaro Littéraire named Perrin one of the ten best-selling authors in France in 2019, and in Italy, Fresh Water for Flowers was the best-selling book of 2020. Perrin now lives in Normandy.
- Publisher : Europa Editions (May 14 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 496 pageshttps://amzn.to/2ZfA4sX
- ISBN-10 : 1609456769
- ISBN-13 : 978-1609456764